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outREACH Workshop: Outreach Team Q&A’s

This week we hosted our fourth free outREACH Workshop with sessions from our CEO and Founder, Lisa Myers on Creativity and Collaboration, our Outreach Team Lead, Laura D’Amato shared her top tips on Outreach Strategy and James Finlayson talked about measuring link-building success.

It was another fantastic online sharing session, the only disappointment being that we didn’t have quite enough time for Laura to answer all your questions in the Q&A sessions. But happily Laura, with the help her two of our outreach starlets, Maddi and Elisabeth, have taken the time to answer your questions…

How long should I wait before recontacting the people who didn’t open the email or didn’t write anything about it yet?

We would usually follow up between 3 and 7 days after the first email. Some journalists were happy with the follow-up after 3 days, but others thought it was too little time and asked us to wait a week before reaching out again. Usually it’s because they didn’t have time to look at it yet, because they get a lot of pitches.

Unless it’s a very urgent and relevant story, we wouldn’t follow-up within less than 2 days though otherwise it feels very pushy. 

Do you handcraft the subject lines with 20+ variations for every individual email? Or group in similar publications (tabloids vs. national news sites, etc.) with the same subject line?

We would definitely change the subject up for different publications, but more for groups such as tabloids, national news sites or more niche publications. We also adapt it depending on the type of journalists we contact, looking at how they write, if it’s serious or more light-hearted.

If there is a journalist that we find particularly fitted for the story, we might look at their previous headlines and tailor it to them specifically.

How many hours go into that research? looking at 3500 film scripts?

The campaign Profanity on Film took longer than usual, since it was quite a lengthy process, and was quite technical. This one took about 2 weeks of work. We had to:

      • Scrape all the movies scripts from various sites
      • Scrape actor/actress profiles on IMDB
      • Get data from the IMDb API
      • Calculate words per actor, character and movie
      • and then just some final data formatting

Luckily we work with a team of data wizards who handled this challenge like pros.  

Journalists have said that they prefer tailored, personalised emails, how do you manage doing this to scale without it being too time consuming?

We obviously personalise our emails with the journalists name but what we focus on is offering them a good and relevant story, so we avoid the fluff as much as possible. If we have a previous relationship with them or if we contacted them via Twitter, we will have a short personalised message but not much more as it can also feel a bit fake. It is also the feedback that we have received from  journalists through the years – they prefer getting into the story rather than trying to pretend you have a relationship if you don’t.

But sometimes, if we feel like the journalist is a great fit, it is worth taking a bit of time to research the style and headline from previous articles to try and match it to the pitch. 

How many times would you follow up with a journalist?

We usually don’t send more than one follow-up. We only send a second follow-up if we can see through Buzzstream or Hunter’s email opening tracker that the journalist has opened the email several times but still not written up an article yet. This would just be a very short email to say “just wondering if you were interested in this”. Also if we think that a story is very fitting but the journalist hasn’t opened the email at all, we might push a bit more with a second follow-up. More than two will be too much.

How do you ensure that the journalist will trust the data you provide?

Including a methodology section in the pitch email to explain how the research or data was conducted definitely helps. That way the journalist can see whether what you’re presenting is reliable or a good representation. It is also important to quote our sources. As we have said before, if you don’t have the authority, borrow it from someone who does and make sure to tell the journalist about it.

Make sure to familiarise yourself with the data prior to sending out the emails to journalists and check anything that doesn’t look right in case the journalists have any questions.

Do you think it’s easier to get links from journalists compared to other websites? Most of my work is outreaching to sites related to our industry, and I find them very difficult to get links from.

National publications have a different way to approach the news and the content they publish than niche websites: they have to be more accessible and they have to write much more content. It makes it easier for content marketers to approach them. Usually when outreaching to specialised websites, we wouldn’t send the same email as we would to national newspapers’ journalists, but would make it more personal and send it in a “I thought you might be interested in this research” tone. You also need to make sure that you bring something to these websites who are already specialised in a particular topic.

If you have any other questions you’d like answered, don’t hesitate to get in touch info@vervesearch.com. Also stay tuned for more updates on our next event, outREACH Conference.

outREACH Online: Q&A’s from our Expert Outreach Panel

Outreach-PanelOur expert outreach panel were a massive highlight of the outREACH Online Conference. The all female panel included Gisele Navarro, Carrie Rose, Ruth Barrett and Laura D’Amato. We were so fortunate to have them share their tips and experiences. So much was covered in the session that we were unable to get through all the questions asked by our audience.

Happily, these wonderful women took the time after the conference to answer your questions, so sit back, relax and take in some serious knowledge…

How do you forecast ROI when pitching campaigns?

Carrie Rose: Usually, we KPI on the following: Links (number of, traffic drive (organic not paid), and social shares) With our campaigns we have a process that delivers more than just links and therefore add KPIs for that. We base it off previous success – we know off the top of our head how many links we should expect based on the story, the angles, the outreach opportunities. We don’t KPI on number of followed/no followed links, revenue or organic traffic. Thats all out our hands (unless we run the whole marketing mix).

Ruth Barrett: We work backwards from an overall strategy and forecast, based on what we believe it will take to generate the results that the client wants, and in turn, the number of links we need to gain across the relevant sectors. The campaigns we deliver all depend on the allocated resource, the size of the campaign, the time being spent on the creation, the websites and publications it would be of interest to, the numbers of news hooks the piece has, and how long we plan to promote it for.

Laura D’Amato: We usually look at similar campaigns that we have done before to try to predict the results. We might not know exactly which journalist is going to cover it but we can replicate the outreach approach. On top of this, we make sure to have different potential headlines and stories so we can reach out to different journalists.
We also adapt our strategy for every client and every campaign depending on the current events happening in the media and in the world. For example, during the pandemic, it was harder to predict the ROI of a campaign due to journalists being asked to cover COVID-19 stories. On the other hand, we sometimes know of some events that will help with outreach. For example, when the Royal Wedding happened, we knew that our campaign about the royal family would get some good coverage.
I think you need a mix of experience and intuition to predict the ROI of a campaign and still, you can never be 100% sure.

Often, our clients feel obliged to get their PR team involved because we’ve used the term ‘PR’ and even more often those PR teams block us from doing link building in this way. How do you navigate digital PR conversations with a client’s PR team? I feel like I spend more time talking about what I do than actually doing it!

Gisele Navarro: We try to get as much information as possible off them beforehand: Can they put together a do-not-contact list for us? Are there any launches/campaigns they are working on that we need to be aware of to avoid overlap? What about anything they’ve got planned where we can support the message with our campaigns? Can we agree on a process for vetoing contacts that doesn’t require us to send target lists for sign-off every time?

We found that the more we can agree beforehand, the better as it reduces the back and forth once the campaigns are running.

Carrie Rose: This was the biggest barrier I faced in my previous role – we changed the use of the word PR to content marketing to show how we are different. We use it in all internal and external comms to prevent clash. The last thing we want is PR to be controlling our campaigns and content. However, more recently we’ve seen a shift in this. Where the power and control is in the digital PR/content marketings hands now.

Ruth Barrett: If a client has an internal PR team or external agency it’s vital that you help build a strong relationship with them. They can provide vital insight into the client, their customers and the business in general. I would ask to see their internal marketing plan to ensure there’s no overlap, and ask for their opinion on the campaigns you plan to create. You never know what great internal data or contacts they could provide to support it.

Laura D’Amato: The key is to build a relationship with the internal PR team of the clients. Early on, we try to arrange meetings with them to understand how they do their PR and what they are expecting from our work but we also remind them that we don’t have exactly the same goal. We are building links and therefore, we have completely different techniques than traditional PR. It is something that we explain from the very beginning, using case studies of similar clients we have worked with. From experience, a lot of people just don’t understand the difference.
Before launching a campaign, we prepare a short outreach strategy that we share with the PR team so they can have an idea of how we are going to approach journalists and the stories we are going out with.
It is important to remember that they have expectations and KPI’s too and it is normal for them to want to go out with a coherent brand message.

We have clients in so many different industries which means I’m often pitching very different journalists who specialise in different areas. I think this makes it a little more difficult to build strong relationships with them as there are not many who I pitch on a regular basis. What are your best tips for creating good relationships with journalists who you may not speak to regularly?

Gisele Navarro: I’ve got two simple tips for this, nothing flashy:

Tip 1: Don’t waste their time
A simple way to ensure you’re not wasting their time is to avoid pitching stories or content that you’re not at least 90% confident they will like to at least check out by themselves. Once they get back to you with questions or additional requests, do your best to be responsive and get all the information they need over to them quickly. Lastly, if you know that something they asked for is a no-go on your end, be open and honest about it – tell them and don’t string them along..

Tip 2: Remember their requests
If a journalist once told you that she needs images to be a certain size or that their site can’t host videos, make a note for yourself to ensure next time you keep those special considerations in mind from the get-go. It’s a simple thing that doesn’t cost you anything and will make a big difference to them.

Carrie Rose: Straight after sending them a story, follow them on twitter. They may recognise your name in their inbox and connect it to twitter. Follow their work, share their articles, like their posts. I have SO many friends online that I’ve never met before and this is the easiest way to create good relationships. But don’t come across spammy. Genuinely help them out and share their posts when they’re looking for stories or case studies, send them things they may need (rather than it being a one way relationship).

Ruth Barrett: I would follow them on Twitter and get a feel for the articles they write, their tone and the posts they share. Create lists on Twitter of the journalists in your target sectors, then using Tweetdeck you’ll have a stream on industry-specific articles and news to ensure you’re more informed before pitching to them.

Laura D’Amato: The only thing I can recommend here is to pitch the journalists good stories rather than to try to build relationships. I don’t think a journalist will take a story that he/she is not interested in just because you get along well. However, if you work on a good story and effective and relevant pitch, you have more chances to get people to cover your story.There are some other little things you can do though and that might help.

  • If you see that a journalist is active on Twitter and posts a lot of #journorequest, try to follow them and reply regularly.
  • Before starting your outreach, read the articles on the topic you are working on, it will only make it easier to write a good pitch.
  • Some journalists write on a lot of different topics, if you manage to become a point of reference for them, it will be easier to go back to them later on. For example, if you know one of your clients can give them relevant quotes or if you know they always need videos in their articles, etc.

How would you advise creating a bigger digital PR campaign with a small team (2-3)?

Carrie Rose: The number of people you have in a team shouldn’t matter, it’s all about how you think. Thinking bigger. Allocate each member a task/KPI something to own and think about what makes a campaign bigger? A social angle? Extra content to be used across other platforms?

Ruth Barrett: Delegate. Split out the tasks at hand and ensure everyone knows their role in the campaign. Communication is key. Make sure you’re not all pitching on mass together.

Laura D’Amato: If you are going to do a big campaign with a small team, you need to anticipate the time it will take you to produce your campaign (potentially analysing the data, designing or developing it) and make sure that you work on a topic that will still be newsworthy even if it takes you a bit longer than usual. There are a lot of evergreen topics that you can explore.
If you want to create a campaign around a topic that is timely, you can produce it in several steps and assets that you can outreach progressively.
Another solution is also to work with third parties like freelance designers or researchers… This obviously requires having a bigger budget.

Press releases – do you include in the first email or check interest before you send? And if so, attachment/ copy paste or link to press pack?

Carrie Rose: Always include the press release within the outreach email as the first email I send. Everything in one go – journalists don’t have time to waste. Make their lives easier (not harder).

Ruth Barrett: Some domains block attachments, plus it will take an absolute eon to send and be received. The end result is an annoyed journalist. Dropbox or WeTransfer are a great solution to this. Your Dropbox can contain everything a journalist needs to write the piece nicely signposted. Even better if you need to update any copy or visuals, it autosaves the latest file.

Laura D’Amato: My email serves as press release and I would never attach an extra document to avoid the email to end in the spam folder of the recipients. When sending the first email, I always make sure that the subject line and first sentences state clearly what the campaign is about and catch the interest of the journalist. Everyone in our team would tell you that we get the best results by getting straight to the point and stating the important information clearly in the body of the email.

What do you do if journalists ask for exclusivity on a piece?

Gisele Navarro: We’re always upfront and explain that we can’t offer exclusivity due to the nature of our campaigns. That being said, depending on where we are with the outreach, we might be able to halt promotion within a geographic region or a publishing vertical so that the journalist gets the exclusive for a set period of time. We also make a note for future reference reminding us to send stories to that journalist a week or two before we launch full promotion.

Carrie Rose: Give them exclusivity for 24 hours if its a good publication. As soon as their article goes live – push wide.

Ruth Barrett: Exclusives don’t really exist in the digital space like they used to. Once the piece is live, it’s no longer exclusive. If a journalist has asked for an exclusive I would find out how long they want it for. Anything over 48 hours I’d question, unless it’s a giant publication.

Laura D’Amato: If I don’t have leads yet, I explain that I have reached out to some journalists already but no one has picked up the story yet so I will hold off on outreach until they publish. I think it is important to give a deadline for them to publish before resuming outreach so they can plan accordingly and you don’t stop outreach for too long.

What’s your experience on sending emails with the attachments (the chain image on the subject line)? How do you fix this issue with people not trusting these types of emails?

Gisele Navarro: We embed images and GIFs into many of our emails in cases where showing the assets is important and never had issues with that. We do make sure images are no larger than 500px wide and we compress GIFs as much as possible to keep the file size low.

However, we don’t attach the press pack with all the assets into our emails as that could affect deliverability if it triggers spam filters or internal rules on email size set by the email administrator. Instead we use Dropbox Transfer so we can share a link for journalists to download all the assets on their end directly.

Carrie Rose: I put files and any attachments into dropbox folders – prevents it going into spam.

Ruth Barrett: As I mentioned before, don’t send attachments.

Laura D’Amato: I don’t recommend using attachments in email AT ALL as your email is likely to end up in the spam folder. There are a lot of platforms online to host your attachment like Dropbox or Google Photos and they are very easy to use both for you and the journalist.

Do you outreach as your agency or as the client?

Gisele Navarro: We’ve always promoted using our agency email addresses. It’s been almost 10 years now and we are confident that sticking to our @neomam.com address has allowed us to build hundreds of relationships with journalists and publications that now look forward to getting an email from our team.

Carrie Rose: As the agency – always.

Ruth Barrett: I’ve sent as the client in the past and it can work, but have gained better results being transparent about who I work for. It feels more natural and avoids any confusion.

Laura D’Amato: A bit of both, I don’t mention the agency except in my signature.
It is just really important to make clear that your client has created the campaign and this is why I always ask for a link and credit to the client’s website so there is no mistake.
In the UK it’s never been a problem as journalists work a lot with PR but I have noticed that for international outreach, you often have to explain the difference.

How many journalists are you addressing with a campaign on average?

Gisele Navarro: Our initial lists start with up to 70 sites and we expand upon it as the campaign develops based on what’s working and what’s not working. A final list could have around 200 contacts.

Carrie Rose: 300 ish (minimum).

Ruth Barrett: The number of journalists I contact would depend on the size of the campaign, the number of news hooks and how the campaign was going. I’ve gained national press from 150 emails before with no follow up emails, sometimes it just takes longer.

Laura D’Amato: As many as I think is relevant. It depends on how broad the campaign is. We can reach out to 300 journalists for a small asset or 1,000 or more for bigger ones with a lot of different angles. Very often, I will reach out to several journalists at one publication.

Do you have any tips for tracking down the right journalist to target?

Gisele Navarro: We always aim at finding journalists who:

  • Have covered the main topic or related stories in the past
  • Have worked with the format of our content (i.e. map)
  • Have written up stories based on content produced by other people
  • Have published content on the site within the last month

You might not be able to always find a journalist that meets the full criteria but the closer you can get to it, the stronger the contact.

We also make a point of finding alternative contacts who will fit one of those four points more than anybody else on the site:

  • A journalist that writes stories about similar topics more often than anybody else,
  • A journalist who has featured the format more often than anybody else
  • A journalist who covers stories based on PR-led campaigns more often than anybody else
  • A journalist who publishes content more regularly than anybody else on the site.

Carrie Rose: Get a list of 5 campaigns similar to yours and pull every media placement they landed. If they cover that, they will more than likely cover yours.

Ruth Barrett: Search for your target job title in Twitter and you’ll soon have a nifty list of journalists that have included it in their bio. If they haven’t included their email I’d recommend sending them a DM, pitching the campaign in one sentence, and asking for their email if they’re interested.

Laura D’Amato: I think it is important to have an analytical filter when you read the press to try to understand how the publications work and what they cover.
I always try to find the editors by using prospecting tools like Gorkana and then I will go on the publications I’m targeting and analyse different sections using keywords from my campaign. After this, I would search for the same keywords on Google to try and find less well-known sites.

Do you look at who has previously covered similar topics? Or by Job title on media databases?

Gisele Navarro: I actually wrote a lengthy article about it and you can read it here.

Carrie Rose: Always similar topics – rarely by job title.

Ruth Barrett: Yes, Google News and Buzzsumo’s Content Explorer is great for looking at who’s recently covered a topic, and the traction it gained.

Laura D’Amato: I always try to start with the most relevant journalists and will go a bit broader if I think something would be interesting for a journalist but he/she doesn’t always write about the topic.

Would be great to know how many people you have working on those campaigns too please!

Gisele Navarro: We work in teams of two where one person is the lead for the campaign and another person supports with link reclamation/attribution requests.

Carrie Rose: Two people per campaign (a strategist and an exec for us) maybe 2 execs if its a big campaign.

Ruth Barrett: The number of people who work on a campaign depends on its size and the speed at which we need to gain results for the client. Ordinarily a single campaign would have a content manager, designer, developer and PR working on it. If it was a larger campaign then we may draft more resource in for any of these areas.

Laura D’Amato: We usually have at least 4 or 5 people working on producing the campaign (for example data analysts/researchers, designers, developers or project managers). We also have a team of creative people for directions on what the campaign should look like. When it comes to outreach we can have between 1 and 3 people working on the same campaign depending on how broad it is and how many angles we can go with at the same time without spamming the same journalists.

Thanks again to our panelists for being so generous with their time during and after the conference.

Don’t forget you can still get tickets for outREACH London, which will now be held in November, but if you can’t wait until then, you can pick up the footage from the online conference here.

outREACH Online Conference: Q&A’s from Kim Bjørnqvist

Earlier this month we were unable to bring outREACH Conference to London due to Covid-19 restrictions, BUT, we didn’t let the pandemic hold us down! Instead we brought you outREACH Online Conference, which was even better than we could have imagined. We are so grateful to all our speakers who were able to join us for this slightly less conventional format – but it totally worked and judging by the feedback from participants, it is something we would definitely consider again for the future. If you were unable to join us for the day, you’ll be pleased to know we recorded all of the sessions, including talks from Rand Fishkin, Shannon McGuirk and Mark Johnstone. Take a look at them today!

The only problem we had was time! There wasn’t enough of it!! All of our speakers delivered rich and interesting talks, which were followed up with questions from the audience. And boy, did we get A LOT of questions. For that reason, we’ll be posting a series of follow-up blogs where our speakers have kindly taken the time to answer all the questions we were unable to get round to on 12th June, starting off with our first speaker of the day, the delightful, Kim Bjørnqvist.

Kim is the Associate Professor of Creativity and Communication at the School of Communication, Leadership and Marketing at Kristiania University College in Oslo. To say his talk set the bar high is an understatement as you can see from some of the tweets from the morning.

Screenshot 2020-06-15 at 12.32.24Screenshot 2020-06-15 at 12.31.52

When we caught up with Kim after the conference he was keen to express his gratitude to the audience for their time, questions and kind feedback. His talk was distilled from what he would normally cover in the two day workshops he does on creativity, as well as the talks he gives on how to pitch ideas and creative writing/copywriting. It was quite the challenge for him to give a brief overview in such a short time on what is a quite complicated and fascinating subject – but he delivered nonetheless. If you are interested in finding more about this from the man himself he’d love to hear from you.

We asked Kim to answer a bunch of your questions from the conference, and here’s what he had to say…

Are there any books, podcasts, shows etc. on the creative process you would recommend?
Not as many as one would think. Unfortunately, most books about the subject of creativity fall into two categories; pretentious bullshit or self-promoting ‘look at me, how sensationally creative I am! Follow my rules, or go down the road to hell.’

Most of the books in the second category are written by advertising gurus. Good exceptions include; George Lois; Great Advice for Very Clever People and Hegarty on Creativity by John Hegarty. For the more academically inclined, there is always Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

I also like Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, a very hands on, refreshingly brash, typically American approach. There are some other good ones, but unfortunately they are in Norwegian.

For initial phases of pouring ideas in the bucket – do you go on until you are done or do you set a timer for adding a bit of creative pressure?
Definitely until you are done. You need a lot (100? 200?) crappy ideas to get to the really good ones. But remember to take 15 min breaks every 45 minutes. Leave the desk and take a walk, preferably outdoors.

I’m also a big fan of biometrics. Could you share any pioneers or resources on this topic?
You probably know more than me about this! My knowledge is limited to the very basic ideas. Here is an interesting link to a Norwegian company that is heavily into this.

Do you have any tips for running creativity/ideation sessions online as we have to do this a lot at the moment?
Not an easy subject – but, you need a leader/supervisor to run the process. Democracy is great in politics, not in an ideation process. Use breakout rooms as much as possible, 5 to 10 minute breakout sessions, before everyone gather together and present their stuff. The fact that zoom chooses breakout groups at random can be used to your advantage.

What do you do if you are not feeling creative?
Start creating something! Train yourself to start the process and force yourself to keep on, you will find that you quickly get into it. Like I said at the conference, creativity is a bit like sex in that respect!

What’s your favourite creative brainstorming activity?
Well, it’s not brainstorming! (In the sense of a group of people sitting around a table, discussing.) This favours the extroverts, and it is not always the extroverts that come up with the best ideas. My favourite is the post-it method: 5 minutes intense jotting down of ideas in silence, before each in turn are put up on the wall, then grouped and finally go through the realist and critic stage.

What do you do if you know you have a decent idea, but can’t seem to get that spur of creativity to see it through or form it properly?
Polish it in a team. Working with other people often bring you the missing elements.

Who is the person or persons that has inspired you the most?
Frank Zappa, genius musician and weird/crazy person. Beethoven, for never compromising. Picasso, for his limitless creativity.

What’s the perfect number of people for a brainstorm? Is it better for more people or a handful?
My favourite number is five, if you have to be six, divide into to groups. I prefer uneven numbers, because you avoid two equal fronts stalling the process.

After some time, one may start to doubt his own creative ideas. Any advice on how to keep interest in them and not ditch them?
Never throw any ideas away. Keep an archive. Use the creative circle I gave you in my talk. Find out which segments need to be strengthened in order to get rid of the doubt.

Do you think that some people are just inherently more creative? And can you teach creativity?
Some people may have a slight advantage, due to genes, upbringing, schools etc, but creativity is like a muscle, it can definitely be trained. But you need the proper methods. Can you teach creativity? I certainly hope so, since I’ve been doing it for decades!

Do you have any tips on how to handle limitations in the creative process? Like budget, resources, time, special tone of voice etc.
Look at limitations as possibilities. In my opinion, creativity blossoms if you work within limits. Maybe not if you are an artist, but certainly in the creative industries.

Thanks again to Kim for his time during and after the conference. We’ll be bringing you more Q&A follow ups from our amazing all female panel which consisted of Carrie Rose, Gisele Navarro, Ruth Barrett and Verve Search’s very own Laura D’Amato, as well as from Mark Johnstone, Shannon McGuirk and more over the next few days.

And don’t forget you can still get tickets for outREACH London, which will now be held in November, but if you can’t wait until then, you can pick up the footage from the online conference here and find out more about what Kim means when he says creativity is like sex!

outREACH Workshop Video 1 – Creativity & Collaboration

This is the first video in a three part series from our free outREACH workshop. This was a series of workshops teaching actionable tips and techniques that will enhance your creative content and link-building strategy.
In this first video, Lisa Myers, the CEO and Founder of Verve Search, goes through the concept and ideation process of creative campaigns.
Lisa also discusses collaboration, research and project management and how they are also crucial to a successful campaign. You’ll learn how the right people with the right attitude can change results.
The next video in this series will be released next week.
Join us for our next event. In June, we are hosting outREACH Online Conference which is a fantastic opportunity for you, or members of your team to hear from the best SEO’s, link-developers, content creators and marketers in the industry including marketing wizard Rand FishkinShannon McGuirk (Aira), Carrie Rose (Rise at Seven), our very own Lisa Myers and many many more. We hope that you’ll be able to join us for this event.
If you have any questions about this content or outREACH Online please contact us at info@vervesearch.com.

outREACH Conference 2019

A huge thank you to everyone who attended this year’s outREACH conference! It may have been drizzly outside, but we had a great day and were honoured to host amazing speakers and enthusiastic attendees.

The outREACH conference is designed to give everyone a helpful insight into the professional strategies and experiences that make up the outreach world, and we at Verve are always humbled by the open sharing of knowledge we see in the expert talks and dialogues.

Kim Bjørnqvist kicked off the day’s talks with an engaging and entertaining presentation on the power of language in the clickbait age. Kim noted that all words are symbols and can be used to build worlds for communicating with the user – who, by the way, don’t see themselves as “users”

“People want to feel unique, not just like walking wallets.”

Kim told us about the four new Ps, highlighting again how language is the strongest tool at our disposal and needs to be used to tie a product with emotions, which can then be transferred to the user. He included insightful advertising examples (and his alterations) that showed us how important it is that people have “at least one thought in their head” when viewing an advert. As he finished, Kim left us with a rousing thought!

“Brilliant ideas are seldom logical , until afterwards.”

To any doubters of link-building strategies, Verve’s own Head of Innovation James Finlayson had one message: no industry is too boring, too competitive, or too regulated for creative marketing campaigns. In his energetic talk, James highlighted that consumers are looking to buy solutions to their problems rather than any specific thing.  

“Build your strategy around the user, not the product.”

James used Verve showstoppers Demolishing Modernism and Unicorn League as examples of linking ‘boring’ services and software to outstanding campaigns that, crucially, achieved top-tier links. Even B2B products, which, James argued, don’t really exist – can benefit from creative campaigns marketed and outreached in the right way. The most important thing is always to create a campaign that resonates, and manage your expectations while you’re at it.

James finished by telling us about the newly launched outREACH Slack channel available to anyone interested in all things outreach. Click here to request to join.

Shannon McGuirk of Aira Digital delivered an enlightening presentation on the roles of instincts and data when outreaching a campaign. Shannon stressed that “relying on gut feelings alone is not enough”, and that outreaching based on your instincts can yield successful hits or regrettable misses.

To find a better and more consistent solution, Shannon and her team set about scraping 35,000 articles across 6 websites. They revealed the statistically optimal days for outreaching across different news categories, which sometimes lined up with instinct, and sometimes surprised everyone.

Next on the agenda was an exciting panel led by Hannah Smith, featuring Verve’s own Head of Outreach Alex Cassidy, Hana Bednarova of Bednar Communications, and Rise at Seven creative director Carrie Rose. The panellists gave us insightful tips on how to craft the perfect outreach email, as well as showing us the tools they use to contact journalists, track communications, and measure links.

An interesting question was put to the panellists: what would you tell yourself at the start of your outreach career? Alex would tell himself to “take time” and make sure to consider all angles; this may feel slow, but makes the process easier. Also, cutting data in different ways can create new angles and fresh links. Carrie advised herself (and the audience!) not to “get bogged down with metrics”, not to push too hard for a link, and to follow up on emails, showing journalists how much coverage can be gained from a fresh article. Hana highlighted the importance of building relationships with journalists and researching well.

In the afternoon, social media editor for MyLondon Sian Elvin led an insightful talk on the best ways to successfully outreach to a journalist. Her presentation was packed full of behind-the-scenes tips about best email practice, from the technical (keep to one font size!) to the practical (always read the publications you are pitching to!).

Previously a journalist at Kent Live, Sian also illustrated how important it is to tailor your outreach to local publications. Change the angle and make the data appeal to local journalists, they’ll definitely care more about your pitch.

Lots of incredible advice and experiences were shared in the Q&A session that followed with Sian Elvin and freelance journalist Alistair Charlton, led by Alex Cassidy. One particular highlight was when both agreed that sending journalists all the data and assets (high quality and usable, of course) in a Dropbox link was one of the easiest ways to reduce time-wasting back and forth communication. And is it ever OK to ring up a journalist? Best not to!

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The chief growth officer at BuzzStream Stephen Panico gave a presentation on the components that make up a successful outreach campaign, and it was packed full of eureka-moment tips (when did you last deep-dive for all that archived coverage?) that got the audience thinking. Guiding us with examples of creative campaigns and link-building done well, Stephen took us through the various stages of outreach, careful to note that “not one size fits all”. For the ideation phase, we learnt about the importance of creating a campaign that resonates with current and recurring events, plus running ideas by journalists to get crucial feedback.

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Our last talk of the day was given by keynote speaker David Rowan, author and founding editor of WIRED UK. David delivered an engaging presentation on how innovation is connected to the way people think, giving us ten ways to achieve it in and out of the workplace.

Empowering your people and allowing people to “just do their job” was one of his highlighted tips, using Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen as an example of a leader who has a track record of putting important decisions in the hands of his employees.

David also suggested turning products into services, pointing our attention to a small bookshop in Mayfair that beat the looming online competition (looking at you, Amazon) by launching a personalised book recommendation service.

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Thank you to all our speakers and attendees for another fantastic conference. We look forward to seeing you all again next year!

outREACH Conference 2018

outREACH 2018

A big thanks to everyone who attended this year’s outREACH conference! We had a great day, and were humbled by the quality of speakers from across the industry.

outREACH conferences are designed to give first hand insight into the professional elements that make up outreach, and we’re pleased to report that we learnt a lot from the great talks throughout the day. We are lucky to work in an industry where everyone is open to sharing their ideas, processes and experiences.

“By being personal, you’re not showing weakness, you show strength.”

Jack Murray from All good tales kicked off the day by showing us the difference between churning out content and telling truly engaging stories. In a talk which managed to connect on an emotional level with an entire auditorium, Jack set a new standard for how marketers should engage with their audiences.

For evidence of his storytelling power, you don’t need to look any further than Twitter:

“Only psychopaths put all their information in a 12mb attachment”

As an editor from the BBC, Richard Fisher made every outreach and PR professional in the audience sit up a little straighter by giving his dos and don’ts for approaching journalists. Richard shed some light on what makes a story, and also how often men bite dogs (I think you had to be there). 

Richard also pointed out the importance of timing when approaching journalists, explaining that a particular story or topic will grow, and finally peak before ending up in the ‘bathtub of death’. The areas of outreach opportunity are therefore ideally before the peak, or potentially after the topic re-emerges later down the line.


“Be kind. The great and silly ideas have come about with the help of a team of people. If things get tough, keep going and encourage one another to not lose heart.”

Lexi Mills from Shift6 taught everyone how playful ideas can tip the scale between an okay PR campaign and an unforgettable one. From an entire bathroom made of sweets to a solid gold mobile, Lexi showed us why she isn’t afraid to pursue big ideas.

Finally, a big takeaway for those in client-facing positions is Lexi’s suggestion; “Don’t ask for yes. Ask for consideration”.


Q: “Do you include a press release when you contact journalists?”

Alex: “I try and keep everything that would be in a press release in the email body when sending outreach emails.”

Next we welcomed a panel of experienced outreach professionals to the stage, who showed us how different agencies master the art of getting links. With a shower of questions from the audience, Shannon McGuirk from Aira.net, Bobbi Brant from Kaizen and Verve’s very own Alex Cassidy gave first hand advice on email approaches, tools, angles and emojis.

A good question from the audience was to ask how outreach professionals should handle exclusives. Should you offer them to journalists? And if so, when? The consensus was to be careful with this, but that offering it to publications particularly important to the client can be worthwhile.

As Alex noted however, these offers have to have an expiry date, so if you don’t hear back soon enough then you can always retract!


“Look for multiple angles. Target your prospecting. Leverage relationships. Contextualise your emails. Maintain flexibility.”

Stephen Panico from BuzzStream followed the panel, digging a bit deeper into the data behind open rates, explaining the reoccurring traits of successful campaigns. With an average BuzzStream customer reply rate of 12%, we learnt what top performers were doing differently to achieve 40%. Targeted approaches and ‘chunking’ as never before, Stephen underlined the importance of building out ideas to increase email reply rates.


“If your asset stops generating links as soon as outreach and promo stops, did you really even build a linkable asset?”

Stacey MacNaught set the tone for creating valuable campaigns which will continue to be linkable long after active outreach has finished. Stacey’s research underlined how many industry professionals are too quick to forget about campaigns once designated outreach time is complete; and that revisiting these campaigns is key to long-term success. If a piece is well researched, why not optimise your content and become a source of information. In her own words, “people who don’t link to their sources are bastards”.


“Go into deep details on link metrics and also bring a human element into reporting. SEO needs to be a hybrid as we’re trying please people and robots.”

Engaging in an industry-wide debate on how best to measure the value of a link, James Finlayson introduced Verve’s Linkscore tool. James illustrated how we should be reporting on the quality rather than the quantity of links, explaining why domain authority alone was not enough on it’s own to measure success. By applying a range metrics which are most valuable to the client, James showed us how we can more precisely target publications and build the right links. It’s fair to say that following its launch there was quite a lot of buzz and chatter around the tool which we hope will shape the way the SEO industry measure success.


“Help people be more of who they are”

Our CEO Lisa Myers showed us the importance of your team when it comes to getting the outcomes you want; “take care of people and people will take care of results”.

Running through the ups and downs of getting a campaign launched, Lisa explained how grit, collaboration and believing can get teams past many obstacles.

Resonating with many on our team (and beyond!), Lisa emphasised how you should champion individual’s talents rather than looking for specific digital experience. The take home: a well connected team who feel they belong will nurture ongoing success.




“People aren’t against you – they’re for themselves.”

As our keynote speaker, James Ãlvarez changed the pace of the conference with insights into the world of hostage negotiation. James illustrated common themes that make up a hostage situation, in turn showing us how we deal with conflict in our daily lives.

Boiling down to a human level, James told us that in order to handle others, in hostage situations or otherwise, we would need to understand what the other person truly wants. It is only then that we might be about to influence their behaviour. It was a fascinating talk to end off the day with, with many of us feeling reassured in our *somewhat* improved chances should we ever find ourselves in a similar position!


That’s it folks! Thank you for another great conference, and we look forward to seeing you next year. Full videos of our talks will be available soon, and the pictures from the event and after-party are here.

Thank you for attending outREACH!

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Wales, Poland, The Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, Germany, The USA, and Pakistan… these are just a few countries our conference attendees travelled from to spend a day at outREACH.

Our aim was to put on a conference which was totally unique, full of useful advice and straight to the point. No bull sh*t. We wanted to go through the steps and processes everyone goes through from coming up with a GOOD idea, having the balls to execute the idea and not letting rules stop you, and then having the RIGHT mindset to outreach it.

The panel take the stage

The panel take the stage

We  introduced an expert panel who shared examples of their perfectly crafted (and less than perfectly crafted) emails to give examples of what worked for them, and what hasn’t.  

Our speakers also included Paul May, from BuzzStream, who analysed over 30,000 emails and told us what was working and wasn’t. Mike King, took the floor to advise on how to utilise machine learning to help speed up your processes.

We have been overwhelmed by the lovely tweets you have been sending us, here are just a few of our favourites..

For those of you who weren’t able to attend there have been some excellent recap posts published:

We also have videos of all the sessions, these are free to access for attendees, and £75 (plus VAT) for non attendees.  These videos will be available early next week.

We had a fantastic time and are truly blessed to be working in such a awesome industry where we are willing to share and develop together. Thank YOU!

All the photos from our event can be found here:

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